My Papa was the Best – BvB Player Jamin McVeigh Honors her Grandfather Through RivAlz
My Papa was the best. He was a hard worker, a loyal husband, father and the most incredible grandpa. His heart and arms were always open to welcome me home, celebrate a life milestone, and give advice, listen, and love. I miss him dearly.
In June of 2013, we lost my grandpa, James Dominic Sartor, to his 5-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Although he passed in 2013, I had already mourned his death a few years prior, as his mind and memories left him far sooner than his body gave in.
Today, my memories are a daily reminder of how lucky I was that he was my grandpa and how much he helped shape me into the woman I am today.
I learned some of life’s most valuable lessons from my Papa. Family always came first and he never let too much time go by without a check-in. I always looked forward to my weekly phone call from him, his requests for updates, asking if I was getting into trouble (never!), and if I needed any money (always!). He also had one of the first cellphones (comically huge by today’s standards) just to keep in touch with his family every minute of the day.
We joked that he was attached to his telephone and just went around and around his phone book, checking off each family member as he made calls each day. He really wanted to be there for us and stay connected. What I would do for just one more phone call from Papa today.
Papa also always made each of his grandkids feel incredibly unique and special. One birthday when I was about 10 years old, I jokingly asked him for a teddy bear as big as me (I had a bit of a teddy bear obsession back then). After school one day, I answered a knock on the front door and when I opened it, all I saw was a HUGE teddy bear that stood at least 5 feet tall, definitely as tall as me. Behind the bear was Papa, of course! From that day forward, I learned to be careful what you ask Papa for, because even if you ask him for the moon, by god, he would find a way to get it for you.
Papa was also incredibly well traveled and would always bring back unique souvenirs when he returned from his trips: coins and bills from China or Vietnam, beautiful dolls from Russia and Africa, and much more. He must have packed extra suitcases to fit all of the goodies for his family on his return trips home.
I was so lucky that he always lived nearby, either in the Bay Area or later in his life, in Mt. Shasta, his hometown. As I grew older, I really cherished how close I lived to him and that we had such a close relationship. He hosted my friends when we came to his house to go skiing in the winter or to hang by the lake in the summer. If anyone was a friend of mine, they were immediately a friend of his.
Even when Alzheimer’s disease robbed his memory of simple things, he would still perk up when I, or another family member, would come visit him. I could always feel his love, even when he couldn’t say it himself anymore.
I have been honored to be a player and committee member with Blondes vs. Brunettes SF over the past three years as it has given me the chance to open up about my, and my Papa’s, struggle with Alzheimer’s disease and has finally provided me with an opportunity to do something to put an end to this terrible disease.
I always keep Papa in my thoughts and everyday I cherish my loving memories. Although he never met my husband while he was still aware and will never meet my future children, I know they will always know who he is and his memory will live on through stories and love.
Blondes vs. Brunettes has been such a blessing as I continue to navigate through this loss. Connecting with an incredible group of young women and men who are also touched by the disease is a special opportunity. Since discussion about Alzheimer’s disease is so often swept under the rug, it feels so good to shout out loud – #END ALZ!
– Jamin McVeigh
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